Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


49th Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2023

Event Details

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Symposium #179
CE Offered: BACB — 
Stranger in a Strange Land: Behavior Analysts in Public Schools
Sunday, May 28, 2023
11:00 AM–11:50 AM
Convention Center 403/404
Area: EDC; Domain: Service Delivery
Chair: Sarah E. Pinkelman (Western Michigan University)
Discussant: Coby J. Lund (Archer Behavioral Health)
CE Instructor: Coby J. Lund, Ph.D.

Over the last decade, it has become increasingly common for public school districts to hire Board Certified Behavior Analysts® (BCBAs®) to provide services to students and staff in their district. This recent partnership presents many wonderful opportunities to students receiving behavior analytic services, but it is not without challenges. Schools have a distinct culture with values and norms that are in many ways inconsistent with the values and norms of applied behavior analysts. In some instances, the cultural differences conflict with the Ethical Code for Behavior Analysts. This symposium presents two papers addressing issues related to applied behavior analysts working in public schools. The first paper describes results from a mixed method investigation surveying over 300 BCBAs® working in public schools across the United States. The second paper discusses the ethical and logistical challenges of training and supervising aspiring BCBAs® in public schools and provides some recommendations for those faced with this task.

Instruction Level: Intermediate
Keyword(s): education, ethics, public schools, supervision
Target Audience:

Experience working in and/or supervising aspiring BCBAs to work in public schools; experience supporting students/clients in transitioning to public school classrooms; experience collaborating with public school personnel (e.g., special or general education teachers, administrators); experience supporting families and caregivers in navigating the educational system.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) identify a minimum of five potential ethical dilemmas that behavior analysts are likely to encounter when working in schools; (2) describe ways to effectively resolve those potential dilemmas in alignment with school culture and resources; (3) outline a minimum of five considerations/recommendations for training and supervising aspiring school-based behavior analysts.

I Walk the Line: Seizing Opportunities From Ethical Challenges in Public Schools

SHAWN E KENYON (Northeastern University and Grupo Método), Danielle Lyons (Canyons School District), Ronnie Detrich (Utah State University), Sarah E. Pinkelman (Western Michigan University), Rachel Mickelson (Western Michigan University), Kacy Rodamaker (Utah State University), P. Raymond Joslyn (Utah State University), Dylan Murphy Zimmerman (Utah State University)

Board Certified Behavior Analysts® (BCBAs®) can play an important role in public schools. However, little is known about the scope of work BCBAs® are tasked with in these settings and to what degree this scope of work is in alignment with the ethical code for Behavior Analysts. The purpose of this study was to survey BCBAs® who self-identify as working in public schools in an effort to learn more about their experiences working in this setting. The research team emailed a survey containing 23 questions pertaining to BCBAs® working in public schools. These questions ranged in topics from caseloads to ethical dilemmas BCBAs® may encounter while working in public schools. The data collected from this survey were analyzed both quantitatively and qualitatively. Quantitative analysis of responses was performed by calculating a percentage through dividing the number of responses with a particular answer selected by the total number of responses and multiplying by 100. Qualitative analysis was conducted by employing an iterative process where responses to open-ended questions were coded into themes. The intent of this paper is to generate meaningful discourse in training and supervision, collaborating with school administrators, resolving ethical concerns, and clarifying roles and responsibilities in public schools.

Serving Two Masters: Supervision of Behavior Analysts in Public Schools
DYLAN MURPHY ZIMMERMAN (Utah State University), Sarah E. Pinkelman (Western Michigan University), Ronnie Detrich (Utah State University)
Abstract: Although behavior analysts are becoming increasingly common in public schools, a recent survey of over 300 school-based behavior analysts indicates that they received the majority of their supervised hours in a setting other than schools (Pinkelman et al., in preparation). Additionally, participants reported that only 40% of their supervisors were knowledgeable about working in public schools, and 80% reported that they have encountered situations in schools that could be in conflict with the Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s® (BACB®) ethics requirements. In order for school-based behavior analysts to be successful, they must master not only the knowledge and skills outlined in the BCBA® Task List, but also have knowledge of the school context and applicable law and the skills to tactfully navigate the school context. This session will (a) highlight the opportunities that exist with behavior analysts in schools (beyond problem behavior reduction), (b) emphasize the importance of supporting aspiring school-based based behavior analysts in building a repertoire that will allow them to successfully navigate the school context in addition to the knowledge and skills outlined in the BACB® task list, and (c) offer recommendations to those who are responsible for supervising aspiring school-based BCBAs®.



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